Pictures at an Exhibition Finale

From Wind Repertory Project
Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky (orch. Carl Simpson, ed. Alfred Reed)

General Info

Year: 1874 / 2004
Duration: c. 11:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: LudwigMasters
Cost: Score and Parts - $125.00   |   Score Only - $20.00


1. The Hut on Chicken Legs (Baba-Yaga) - 3:34
2. The Knight's Gate in the Old Capital, Kiev (The Great Gate of Kiev) - 5:34


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Anvil
  • Bass Drum
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Whip
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition came about as a result of a posthumously given exhibition of some 400 works by the composer’s friend, the Russian architect and designer Viktor Alexandrovich Hartmann (1834-1873). Mussorgsky was greatly distressed over the untimely death of his friend and conceived the idea of a musical tribute to Hartmann sometime after his visit to the memorial exhibition in February or March of 1874. Composed for the piano, Mussorgsky’s manuscript for Pictures at an Exhibition was written down in about 20 days' time commencing on the 1st or 2nd of June, with the final page dated in the composer’s hand: “22 June 1874 St. Petersburg.” A few minor alterations to the music were most likely made prior to the dedication to Vladimir Stassov on June 27th, certainly before the half-erased notation in blue pencil: “For publication. Mussorgsky. 26 July 1874.”

Pictures at an Exhibition dates from the most productive period of Mussogsky’s life (1867-1875), which saw the creation of such works as St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain (1867), The Nursery (1868-70), Boris Godunov (1868-72), Without Sun (1874), and Songs and Dances of Death (1875), along with large portions of the operas Khovanshchina (1872-80) and Sorochinsky Fair (1875-unfinished.) With its use of unconventional chordal relationships, unresolved dissonance and exotic scales, Pictures at an Exhibition provides the listener an outstanding example of the composer’s mature style. It is certainly one of the most innovative and original works composed during the nineteenth century.

While often classified as Russian nationalist, the composer described his musical style at that of a ‘realist.’ Though Mussorgsky’s music shares many obvious features such as the use of Russian folksong with composers of the Russian nationalist school (Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov), it also has much in common aethestically with the realist school which arose in the 1860s among Russian writers and artists such as the painter Repin, the sculptor Antokoisky, the poet Golenishev-Kutuzov; and the architect Viktor Hartmann. Realism, of which Mussorgsky was the sole musical representative, held that genuine beauty is to be found in everyday life (reality) and the main purpose of art is to reproduce that reality faithfully. Examples of musical reality abound in Pictures at an Exhibition: the awkward leaps and grimaces of the gnome in “Gnomus,” the taunts and shouts of children at play in “Tuileries,” the lumbering ox-cart in “Bydlo,” the fluttering of wings in “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks,” the contrasting speech of the two Jews in “Samuel’ Goldenberg und ‘Schmuyle,” the wild flight of the witch in “The Hut on Chicken Legs (Baba-Yaga),” as well as Mussorgsky himself shuffling about the exhibition in the various "Promenades. "

Pictures at a Exposition remained unpublished at Mussorgsky’s death. It was not until five years later, in 1886, that the work was brought out by the St. Petersburg publisher Bessel in an edition prepared by Rimsky-Korsakov. In spite of this publication, the work remained relatively unknown. The first recorded public performance was given on November 30th, 1891 — not in the original piano version but in an incomplete orchestration by Rimsky’s student Mikhail Tushmalov. Not until the 1920s with the introduction of Maurice Ravel’s brilliant orchestration, which is based on the Rimsky-Korsakov edition, did Pictures at an Exhibition begin to achieve the enormous popularity it enjoys today. Except for the places mentioned below, Rimsky’s editorial changes are relatively restrained — especially in light of his well-intentioned but heavy-handed editing of Boris Godunov. The two major changes are found in “Bydlo”, where Rimsky replaced Mussorgsky’s opening ff dynamic with pp and inserted a poco apoco cresc. for the next 36 measures (nearly half the piece), and in “Samuel’ Goldenberg und ‘Schmuyle,” where the rhythm of the fourth beat in measure 1 was changed from three 16th notes followed by a dotted 32nd and 64th to a 16th note triplet plus a dotted 16th and 32nd.

The present orchestration, which is completely new, is primarily based on the autograph manuscript, reproduced in a facsimile edition by the State Music Publishers in Moscow in 1975. Also consulted was Pavel Lamm’s critical edition issued in 1939, reprinted by Dover Publications in 1990. The only departure from Mussorgsky’s original piano score are in the transposition of selected movements (Gnomus, Promenade 2, Il Vecchio Castello, Promenade 3, Tuileries, Bydlo, and ‘Samuel’ Goldenberg üñd ‘Schmuyle'). Even though the transposition modifies the key-sequence of the original, the resulting sequence still falls within the composer’s style and with the period of the work’s creation. No omissions or other simplifications have been made to the musical content. Directors are encouraged to use one player per part for the saxophones, trumpets, trombones, euphonium, and tubas. This is especially important in movements like “Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells” with its chamber winds style of scoring. In the more heavily scored movements like “Bydlo” and The Knight’s Gate in the Old Capital”, saxophones and brass can be doubled in the loud spots.

Of the 11 Hartmann drawings and paintings referenced by Mussorgsky in Pictures at an Exposition,, only six are presently known. Fortunately the arts writer and impresario (and Mussorgskv’s longtime supporter) Vladimir Sassov, who organized the Hartmann Memorial Exhibition, compiled a catalogue of the works that were on display in addition to providing descriptions of the individual illustrations in the 1886 Bessel score. While Hartmann's illustrations depict moments frozen in time, Mussorgsky, master composer of opera and song, manages to draw out a miniature story in sound for each one. A short synopsis of the individual movements along with a description of the illustrations appear below

The issue of Mussorgskv’s performing tempi, which appear below in the descriptions of the individual movements, is an interesting story in its own right. Arkady Kerzin (an early champion of Mussorgsky’s work) wrote to Stassov in January 1903 asking for various details about the creation and interpretation of the original piano score, the premiere performance of which Kerzin was attempting to arrange in Moscow. (The 1886 Bessel score has no metronome markings.) Stassov’s reply furnished the desired information, including the tempi, which he had discussed with Rimsky during the course of a dinner party given at Glazunov’s home: “We sat down at the piano, Rimsky played each number over a few times, and then we recalled how our Mussorgsky had played them — remembered, tried them, and finally, fixed the right tempi with the aid of a metronome.”

15. Izvushka na Korikh Nozhkakh (BABA-YAGA) -Allegro con brio, feroce THE HUT ON CHICKEN LEGS (BABA-YAGA)]

The Hartmann illustration that served as inspiration for this movement is described by Stassov as " for a clock in the form of Baba-Yaga’s hut on chicken legs ... Russian style of the 14th century, [in] bronze and enamel ... to which Mussorgsky added the wild ride of the witch in her mortar.” The pencil sketch, preserved in the St. Petersburg Public Library, serves as a mere starting point for Mussorgsky, whose musical language here has more in common with Stravinsky than that of his contemporaries. While Rimsky and Stassov’s metronome marking (120) is significantly slower than most contemporary performances, it does make sense in light of the fact that each measure in the outer sections would last precisely one second, which, along with the mechanical rhythms, creates the impression of a giant clock. A parallel is to be found in the ticking clock which accompanies the Tsar’s hallucination scene in Boris Godunov. The middle section, a tonally ambiguous nocturne created by the use of both augmented and diminished harmonies, is suggestive of Bartok’s 'night music’ style which would appear some fifty years later.


A never-realized design for a Kiev city gate commemorating Tsar Alexander Il’s 1866 escape from assassination, the Hartmann drawing is “... in the massive old Russian style, with a chapel inside, the archway resting on pillars sunk into the ground. To the right is a belfry with a cupola in the shape of a Slavonic helmet.” Mussorgsky’s score transforms Hartmann’s grandiose concept into an artistic vision of great majesty. The processional theme that opens this movement is presented in its entirety at three places: first in the unadorned opening statement, with a repetition using fuller harmonies (measures 1—29), then accompanied by carillon-style scales (mm. 47-63) and lastly in a triplet fanfare-like pattern (mm. 114-135, rebarred into 3/2 meter for the present orchestration from the original half-note triplets.) Between these statements appear two stark settings of the Russian Orthodox hymn ‘As you are Baptized in Christ’ (mm. 30-46, 64-80) plus a massive interlude made up of layered bell sounds (mm. 81-113) which includes a return of the Promenade theme. The triple-meter statement of the opening processional music is followed by a transition featuring additional bell sounds (mm. 136-161) leading to an imposing coda based the same processional theme. The only tempo indication given by Rimsky and Stassov is for the very beginning: mm=84.

-Program Note by orchestrator


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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  • Mussorgsky, M.; Simpson, C.; Reed, A. (2004). Pictures at an Exhibition: Finale [score]. Masters Music Publications: Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Pictures at an Exhibition. Wikipedia. Accessed 6 August 2023